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5.0 out of 5 stars After over a decade, Doom still stands the test of time, May 31, 2005
This review is from: Doom (Video Game)
Doom(1995). The Playstation rerelease of the 1993 classic, and also including the expansion, Ultimate Doom, and its sequel, Doom II.

In this day in age, it's not that hard to take first person shooters for granted. They're EVERYWHERE in every shape and form on every system, literally clones of clones in a sense. What's even harder now is spotting the true gems that stand out within the genre. However, back in 1993 the FPS was unheard of commercially, and as difficult as it is to believe, the genre was a major revolution to gaming. Out of nowhere, the company iD Software showed up and introduced Wolfenstein 3D, the first real FPS. While it does stand as a gaming milestone of the early 90s, it didn't quite take off in the public. What did succeed however was their next project, which consisted of heavy weaponry, lengthy levels, demon slaughtering, BFG 9000s, and key collecting: the legendary Doom.

Anyone who first experienced the game back in its height of popularity knows that Doom wasn't just a game, but a phenomenon. It has always consumed gamers (and continues to do so) into its ever addicting gameplay without compromise. The premise here is really simple: A base on Mars is attacked by Demons through a portal from Hell, and so the higher ups send the whole military platoon in to take care of the situation while you stand guard at the portal entrance. Of course, everyone gets wiped out except for you and now it's your job to go in and eliminate every last one Hell's minions. Yeah, it's a dumb story and it was eventually improved drastically with Doom 3 many years later, but the one aspect that makes these older Doom games superior to Doom 3 is that its simplistic storyline allows you to pick up the game from the get-go. There's no 30-minute CG cutscenes to introduce the game to you. There's no hour-long tutorial demonstrating how to play the game. No, immediately upon starting you're thrusted right into gameplay, and quite honestly I wouldn't have it any other way. Doom is to 3D what Contra is to 2D gaming: an instant, immersive, and entertaining experience, albeit somewhat mindless.

Of course, most Halo and Unreal Tournament gamers of today will blindly slag off Doom simply because the game is old and because of its archaic graphics. Yes, the graphics do date this game a bit, plus its bloody, violent visuals look a lot more like a cartoon now than it did ten years ago, but people need to wake up and realize that a game is not fun solely based on how great the graphics are. The visuals are primitive, but you won't really care once you become immersed in the game.

Another common complaint about Doom from people now is that "all you do is shoot monsters and collect keys". True, newer FPSs offer different things to do, but people take Doom's simplicity merely at face value and they seem to miss the point. One thing that Doom has on most other FPS games is in its ingenious level designs. The creators really took the time to make its monsters, levels, and the overall experience memorable in a way that makes you want to come back for more. The differences between Doom and Doom II may only seem like cosmetic upgrades, but as the games go along, the mazes become more and more intricate and cleverly designed. Having story missions and goals to complete is fun, but not at the expense of completely non-linear gameplay. Doom never skimps out on this aspect.

Obviously the PC versions of the games are the best ones to play, but for those who happen to have a PS1/PS2 and caught onto Doom at a later date, this version will give you a real bang for your buck. With 2 games and an expansion, the whole package here offers about 60 levels, and 5 difficulty levels of nonstop action. One thing that is improved from the PC version is the sound. All the sound effects and monsters have improved noises, and all the droning level songs from the PC are replaced by an atmospheric, at times errie background soundtrack. As a Doom player for many years now, I believe this makes Doom that much better. Plus, the game feels very natural with a PS1 controller. Also, if you can ever find 2 PS1s, a link cable, 2 Doom games, and 2 TVs, the multiplayer option is well worth it.

While other FPS games after Doom added a few new things here and there, very few were able to capitalize on Doom's greatest strength, which is its design. In fact, the only other FPS series to really impress me besides Doom is Half-life. I know that this review sounds like a bunch of praise, but a lot of the popular complaints are really nothing but hot air. However, I do wish that you could save the game via memory card instead of having to copy down passwords. That's my only gripe though. I give Doom my highest recommendation to open gamers looking for a challenge and a way to kill time. It's one of my all-time favorite games. In time, you too will agree that there's nothing quite like taking out a room full of zombie soldiers with a single double-barrel shotgun blast, jumping out of your seat as a group of angry imps pops out of a "monster closet"(hahaha), and dodging ferocious attacks by Barons Of Hell while you find health and attempt to take them out with a shotgun.

Replayability: Very high. It's Doom. That's all that needs to be said.

Other recommendations:
-Final Doom (PC/PS1)
-Doom 3 (PC)
-Half-life (PC)
-Half-life 2 (PC)
-Jedi-Knight: Dark Forces II (PC)

Angel of Retribution (With Bonus DVD)
Angel of Retribution (With Bonus DVD)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Tears of joy lift me up... The Priest is back!!!, May 13, 2005
Angel Of Retribution(2005). Judas Priest's fifteenth studio album.

2004 was a decent year for metal music thanks to some solid albums put out like Iced Earth's "The Glorious Burden", Evergrey's "Inner Circle" and many others. However, the year couldn't have ended any worse than with the murder of former Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell. It seemed like the world of heavy metal took a grave and bitter slump for a short while and it was looking for something to bring it back up again.

Thankfully some two months after the dawn of the newyear, the reunited metal gods Judas Priest did just that, unleashing a new powerhouse album that reminded fans how heavy metal was supposed to be done. I wanted to wait to review AOR until the excitement settled down because I knew that any review right off the bat to a new release by my all-time favorite heavy metal band would result in nothing but gushing praise. Thankfully, even after a while, AOR holds up because it's really A GOOD ALBUM. Those that are looking for something completely new and different won't care for this release as many of the 1-2 star reviews will indicate. True, Priest aren't really being that innovative here like they were in 1984 and prior, but thankfully they are not trying to imitate the trend of the day anymore (Let's face it, ever since Turbo(1986), Priest has been playing catch-up to what was popular in the metal music scene, even Painkiller(1990) which I consider a masterpiece). AOR is simply Priest taking all the best elements of each of their past albums that define what Priest is all about and compacting them into a classic, yet non-dated album. Think of it as a Best of Priest collection, but with all new songs.

Now Priest's reunion isn't exactly new news anymore, but disregarding the time span of Halford's absence which was almost as long as their whole previous career combined, it appears that almost nothing has changed since 1991. His presence further proves that the two Ripper-era albums Jugulator(1997) and Demolition(2001) were merely Tipton solo albums with the Priest name attached, and it can be felt all over the songwriting and lyrics. Speaking of which, every previous album contributes something to the whole package here whether it be lyrical references or the song itself. People tend to dog on Priest for their fantasy comic book lyrics, but they fit the music just fine, so get over it.

Onto the songs. The selection here is so diverse that every song has a different feel to it from the previous one, not unlike the 70s and 80s Priest albums, and something that many metal bands sorely lack in. Kicking off is the pulse-pounding 'Judas Rising', perhaps the only song displaying some new territory. Easily the best album opener since Painkiller, or at least since Halford's "Resurrection". This one will be a classic for years to come. Next is 'Deal With The Devil', a metal scorcher bearing resemblance to both 'Riding On The Wind' and Halford's 'Made In Hell'. 'Revolution' is the lone single that was released, and one that many fans seem to hate. Yes, it's not exactly in league with many of the other tracks here, but it's definitely stronger than some of the singles released off of past albums. A true anthem with a bit of a 'Take On The World' and 'United' sound and pace to it. 'Worth Fighting For' brings Point Of Entry(1981) to mind. Then the frantic 'Demonizer' conjures up what Priest should have sounded like if Halford had sung on Jugulator songs like 'Bullet Train'.

'Wheels Of Fire' comes off as a cruising commercial rocker in the vein of Turbo, minus the glossy 80s production. 'Angel' is an outstanding ballad, and perhaps up there with 'Beyond The Realms Of Death'. People have been complaining over the numerous slower songs and less frequent falsetto screams, but if you listen to some of the earlier Priest albums besides Painkiller, they follow a similar pattern to AOR. Painkiller fans should rejoice for 'Hellrider', a mammoth speed metal track that rolls and brings all the best elements of that album together, sounding the most like the title track and `Between The Hammer And The Anvil'. It's my favorite one besides 'Judas Rising', containing two choruses, plus a killer twin guitar attack that is on the level of the solos found on 'One Shot At Glory'. Glen and KK definitely haven't lost their edge. 'Eulogy' is a brief 'Epitaph' inspired piece. Last but not least is 'Lochness', AOR's slow plodding closer like 'Heavy Duty/Defenders Of The Faith' or 'Monsters Of Rock', though 'Lochness' is certainly the best of those kind of tracks they've ever made, and their longest song to date. It builds up for a while and escalates into a stellar chorus with a giant hook. Rock hard ride free!

Replayability: High. It's essential Priest, need I say more?

The DVD is interesting to watch, if nothing more than that, but overall I'd say that Priest managed to pull of a successful reunion and AOR cements them as the rightful metalgods, announcing that Priest is in fact here to stay. I still like Defenders Of The Faith(1984), Unleashed In The East(1979), and Painkiller the best, but AOR is now another one of my favorites, definitely in the top 5 Priest albums. There wasn't a single song that I didn't like on here, so I have no reason not to give it the full 5 stars it deserves. It's too soon to tell, but in a few years down the road, AOR will become a classic. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED TO ALL FANS OF THE MIGHTY PRIEST!

Other recommendations:
-Any Priest album, minus 'Rocka Rolla' and the Ripper albums.
-Any 80s and new millenium Iron Maiden album.

Still Hungry
Still Hungry
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hardcore TS fans MUST have this one, casual fans can pass, April 24, 2005
This review is from: Still Hungry (Audio CD)
Still Hungry(2004). Twisted Sister's re-recorded 1984 third album "Stay Hungry" with several bonus additions.

Long before TS scored two radio hits with "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock", TS was an east coast heavy metal/hard rock band that garnered quite a reputation in the clubs they played in back in the late 70s and early 80s. Although they had quite a silly image with the whole drag queen look, I never really thought of TS as a glam metal act like many have proclaimed because they always had a great emphasis on memorable songwriting with a harder edge than most of the other bands of the time. Dee Snider put it humorously the best himself when he quoted: "I don't think Twisted Sister is "Glam" because that implies glamour, and we're not glamorous. We should be called "Hid" because we're hideous." Like most people, I first heard TS through their classic Stay Hungry(1984) album, but I actually found their first two albums Under The Blade(1982) and You Can't Stop Rock And Roll(1983) to be the best ones because they both sported giant hooks and an awesome collection of metal/hard rock songs. On the contrary, I actually have a soft spot for their highly polished, decidedly "un-TS" yet memorably catchy swan album Love Is For Suckers(1987) and a few of the tracks off of their weakest effort Come Out And Play(1985), so I'm not really that picky when it comes to TS's material.

In any case, SH was truly a classic and it sports my all-time favorite TS song, 'Burn In Hell'. I found it quite odd that every single album of theirs was remastered and given bonus tracks EXCEPT for SH, but now it all makes sense because the band wanted to completely remove the "thin" production that no amount of remastering could ever improve. Having listened to the original hundreds of times, I don't really mind it too much, though I do agree that it lacks a certain "oomph" compared to their heavier first two releases. However, I quite enjoy these newer "meatier" renditions of the older songs, featuring a production by the band's own Mark Mendoza. The drums finally bang, the bass can be heard now, and the guitars pack some crunch to them. Re-recording your old albums can be a risky move, especially when it's done with your most famous album, but in the case here I'm VERY impressed.

My only complaints from this whole thing are actually with the two hits 'We're Not Gonna Take It' and 'I Wanna Rock'. The new versions are good and rock harder, but I agree with other reviewers that the older versions have a little more of a "fun and rebellious" vibe to them. On the other hand, the awesome extended guitar solo in the former song is a pleasant surprise. Other than this, ALL of the other tracks are an improvement to the originals. Every song has an ending now instead of fading out, and 'S.M.F.' plays even faster than before! 'Horror Terria', 'Stay Hungry', 'Beast', and 'Burn In Hell' all sound like they could have fit on UTB now. 'BIH' is better than I ever imagined it could be. Even the single ballad "The Price" benefits from a better production.

TS wasn't just happy enough re-recording the album itself, so they decided not to skimp out on extras and add 7 bonus tracks! The real gems here are the re-recorded versions of many songs straight from the TS vault. 'Never Say Never' and 'Blastin' Loud And Fast' were both SH B-sides that fit well on the album and should've been on there from the beginning. The former song is probably the best TS song you've never heard of. 'Come Back', 'Plastic Money', 'You Know I Cry', and 'Rock N Roll Saviours' are resurrected cuts from their late 70s days, despite the fact that the liner notes indicate that they are all "brand new" studio tracks. If you want to hear the original versions of these songs, they can all be found on both the Club Daze discs, which are still available. The final song 'Heroes Are Hard To Find' originally appeared on both Dee's failed late 80s project "Desperados" and on his movie "Strangeland".

Replayability: Moderate. Good for a TS fix.

Overall, I'm very pleased with this new reworking of SH and I have no regrets buying it. Whether fans like TS's move with this or not is really a matter of opinion. I suppose that if you're just a casual fan of the band or if you're such a big fan of the original SH that any changing would cause problems for you, then you should just skip this. However, if you are indeed a hardcore TS fan who likes pretty much anything they've done, especially UTB, YCSRAR, and the Club Daze recordings, then you should definitely add this to your collection. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Other Recommendations:
-TS's first 3 albums and Club Daze I & II
-Anything by WASP and Kick Axe (both of these bands are often labeled "Glam" like TS, but also have a harder sound than most.

Ocean Machine: Biomech
Ocean Machine: Biomech
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5.0 out of 5 stars "...It's like a death becomes musical...", April 8, 2005
This review is from: Ocean Machine: Biomech (Audio CD)
Ocean Machine/Biomech (1997). Devin Townsend's first solo album.

Ocean Machine was one of those albums that I've always wanted to review, but held off on it for the longest time because I didn't know right off the bat how to interpret what I got out of this masterpiece. I can safely state that there is NOTHING out there quite like OM/B, or anything quite similar to the realms that Devin Townsend has explored in his musical career, starting with this album. So I couldn't really relate this to much, but that didn't stop me from enjoying this boldly progressive album. It was the third DT album I bought, being introduced with Accelerated Evolution(2003) first, followed by Terria(2001). When I heard the live bonus tracks off of Terria that came from OM/B, I knew I had to rush out immediately and grab this one, and to this day I haven't regretted it once.

Devin Townsend's solo material may be a bit softer than his Strapping Young Lad stuff, but that's not to say that his "mellow" side is soft at all. In fact, this is still some VERY heavy stuff. The best way to describe DT's sound is that he combines literally a vast army of guitars followed by some keyboard ambience sounds, which comes together in a powerful wall of melody. In this case, the melody crashes on the listener as a giant ocean wave. It's one of the most perfect guitar distortions I've ever heard. Devin's singing is phenomenal too, ranging from a soft melody to a powerfully throaty roar, and you'll hear this all over the album. The backing band is quite talented as well, though I don't think any of them carried over to other DT albums.

OM/B is sort of a concept album which describes the power of the ocean (moreso musically than lyrically). Starting off is a short passage from Lord Alfred Tennyson's "In Memorium", followed by the powerful rocker 'Seventh Wave'. It has such an epic sound without being overtly technically proficient. This album is progressive in the fact that it's very original sounding, though it never goes overboard and tries to do any Dream Theater or Symphony X stuff at all. The progressions are a lot more subtle in the fact that you may not notice them the first time, or even the tenth time you listen to it, but the music in itself is incredibly layered. Getting back to the songs, 'Seventh Wave' has an extremely memorable chorus that forces you to pay attention and bow down to its power. 'Life' is a fun 90's semi-alternative rocker that serves as the album's single commercial point. Devin is especially talented for the fact that the guy knows how to properly put albums together. A lot of musicians fail in this respect. 'Night' is an atmospheric midpacer rocker, though not as catchy as some of the other stuff, still has its proper place. It then gets eclipsed by my all-time favorite DT song 'Hide Nowhere', a brooding and soaring track that reaches epic proportions in its chorus and multi-vocal approach. It then transfers right into the melodic break 'Sister', followed by the somber numbers '3 A.M.', and 'Voices In The Fan'. 'Regulator' is another slow, catchy power rocker that cannot be skipped. All of this is followed by the most calm song on the disc, 'Funeral' which serves as sort of the "calm before the storm" semi-finale. This song lasts over 7 minutes, but it has nothing on the 2 part grand finale 'Bastard' and 'The Death Of Music'. The latter track has a very basic drum beat and a few notes here and there which seems dull at first, but a few minutes into it, the melody builds up over many waves and crashes down on the listener towards the end of the song. It's honestly one of the most powerful melodies I've ever heard, and it ends the normal album in a spectacular fashion. As another site stated before, this song perfectly demonstrates the solid emotion that the band Extreme only hoped to convey with a few of its concept albums. Things end on a quiet note with the decent bonus track and ballad 'Thing Beyond Things'. Just as the song fades out into a relaxing finish, there is this odd schizoid scream that Devin does right at the end of the disc and it seems quite out of place within that song. It's the only gripe I have with an otherwise outstanding album.

Replayability: Often. Perfect for the occasion when you want to hear something heavy and emotive.

After all is said and done, OM/B is a powerhouse melody album that should have seen more exposure by people. It does take patience for some people just for the mere fact that this album was designed to be heard from front to back and not played on random shuffle. DT proceeded to experiment with two other albums, Infinity(1999) and Physicist(2000) before returning to the masterful OM/B sound with his fourth album Terria. The album's guitar sound is quite different than anything you've probably heard so far. So far the closest comparison I can make to it is Def Leppard's Hysteria album, and even that is still quite far fetched in terms of describing the actual music. OM/B is a 90s cult classic that no rock music fanatic should miss at all. Not too many people know of this album, but those that have heard it can say that others are seriously missing out on some great music. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Other recommendations:
-'Terria' and 'Accelerated Evolution'. Both are MUST OWN DT albums like OM/B.
-'Infinity', 'Physicist', and any Strapping Young Lad album. (Other things to check out by Devin Townsend.)
-Any Agalloch album (A death metal band that concentrates on powerfully melodic guitar passages, not unlike Opeth, but not quite the same either.)

True As Steel
True As Steel
Price: $8.99
50 used & new from $5.87

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rightfully "true" as steel from front to back, February 27, 2005
This review is from: True As Steel (Audio CD)
True As Steel(1986). Warlock's third studio album.

At the dawn of the 80s, many heavy metal bands hailed from all over the place in order to make their sound heard. Germany was a great music spot as well as England and the United States. From there came bands like the Scorpions, Accept, and Warlock, all showing the world how heavy metal should be done. The Scorpions had much experience under their belt and ended up being one of the most successful metal bands to date, managing to survive the grunge rock wave of the early 90s. Accept were underrated amongst all the NWOBHM bands, yet they managed to churn out classic album after classic album up until their official break-up sometime in the 90s.

Warlock were a really special case at that time because they were a fully-fledged heavy metal band with a female-fronting vocalist, something that wasn't very common at all, considering how many female fronted bands favored a pop music sheen at the time. Warlock beautifully demonstrated Doro Pesche's unbridled power on both Burning The Witches(1984) and Hellbound(1985), their first and second albums respectively. Backing her up were guitarists Rudy Graf and Peter Szigeti, bassist Frank Rittel, and drummer Michael Eurich, all competent metal musicians in their own right. 1986 saw the band move into slightly more melodic musical landscapes, yet they still retained their edge that previous albums displayed. Although it didn't get as much warm reception as the band wanted it to, TAS may well be Warlock's masterpiece and one of the best albums to come out of the mid 80s (Yes, it's even a little bit better than the follow-up Triumph & Agony(1987) which is still excellent).

I don't know exactly what it is about this album, but I can't remember the last time I repeatedly played a hard-rock album over and over again and not grow tired of it. Seriously, I must've played TAS 10 times in a row on the day I bought it! It's seen countless replays since then and to this day I still do not ever become bored of its hard rocking sensibilities and unique melodic atmosphere. Of course, taken at face value it does sound like a lot of other hard rock coming out at the time, but there's something about TAS that I can't quite pinpoint which separates this one from others. It's very underrated and perhaps one of the most forgotten gems of 1986, but in my eyes it is clearly a masterpiece that all fans of this genre need to hear. It's a real shame that TAS didn't receive a better reception than it did, because I'm sure that if it had seen some exposure in the States, it would be right up there with their successful follow-up album.

TAS is Warlock's lengthiest studio album clocking in at eleven tracks, yet they fly by in no time at all. From the majestic anthems of the title track and the speed metal of 'Speed Of Sound' to the epic feel of 'Midnight In China' and the excellent balladry of 'Love Song', there is plenty of variety to be found here. Although I guess you could say that 'Reckless(Igloo On The Moon)' is the closest thing to filler on the disc, it's still a good song, and I did not find a single weak track in the mix. My absolute favorites are the aforementioned 'Midnight In China' and the title track, plus also the soaring opener 'Mr. Gold' and mid-paced mayhem of 'Fight For Rock'. 'Love In The Danger Zone' is slower and gloomy, whereas 'Vorwarts Alright!' and 'Lady In A Rock And Roll Hell' are more power-steady numbers that would fit well played in a large arena. I believe that 'T.O.L.' is the only instrumental the band has ever done, and it's a fine way to close the album. This release's only downside comes from the fact that Warlock has never been a gold-mine when it comes to lyrics, but when it comes to power arena-metal melody music like this, lyrics don't really matter.

Warlock didn't last very long, but they managed to put out 4 hard-hitting classics in their short time span, with TAS being the best of the bunch. The line-up faltered after this album's extensive touring, replacing Szigeti and Rittel with two American musicians, and relocating to the US where T&A was produced. Once Warlock ended, Doro managed to gain a successful solo career in Germany that's still going strong to this date. Other members like Szigeti and Rittel moved onto former Accept Frontman Udo Dirkshneider's solo band U.D.O., whereas Eurich moved onto the hard rock German band Cassanova.

Replayability: Very High. I'll break this one out from time to time, no matter what mood I'm in.

Overall, it's safe to say that if you like Warlock's other releases you should feel right at home with TAS. In fact, any one who is into the mid-80s hard rock/metal scene should find something to like off of here. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Other Recommendations:

-Any of Warlock's other studio albums (ALL are great)

-'Force Majure' and 'Doro' (both are the closest sounding to the former band Warlock.

-'Defenders Of The Faith' by Judas Priest and 'Rage For Order' by Queensryche (not the same as TAS, but both have a unique feel to them much like TAS does)

-Anything by Lita Ford or Vixen (both female/female fronted hardrock bands)
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 11, 2011 4:25 AM PDT

Caress Of Steel [Remastered]
Caress Of Steel [Remastered]
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141 used & new from $2.79

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good, but definitely one of Rush's weaker albums, February 26, 2005
Caress Of Steel(1975). Rush's third studio album.

In the late 60s/early 70s, progressive rock began to spring up all over the place with several bands paving the standards by which prog rock was judged. Yes and King Crimson came first, with ELP, Genesis, and others following suit. Rush was actually one of the last bands to come out of this initial phase, starting out as a Led Zepplin-esque straight ahead hard rock act around the same time when Yes was releasing masterpieces like Relayer(1974). Once drummer Neil Peart entered the fray on Fly By Night(1975), a new chemistry was evolving within the band, changing them from standard hard rock (albeit pretty good) outfit into a fully fledged prog act. By 1975, Rush had released its third album COS, and it met with both criticism and praise by the fans. Relating their situation to the name of an earlier Rush song, the band was clearly still "finding their way".

I'll go ahead and state this right off the bat: THIS ALBUM CERTAINLY TAKES TIME FOR IT TO GROW ON YOU. Of course most all of Rush's albums require this, but it's especially prevalent with COS. This one is sort of an in-between-eras album in which Rush is backing away from its previous straight up hard rock image, yet they haven't quite found a clear direction for which they wanted to take their music into new territories. Many people will state that their 80s and 90s albums are the only ones that take time to warm up to, but I come from a different standpoint where I started with their 80s stuff first, and then veered backwards in time. Their 80s era is my personal favorite (now, before early Rush fans scoff me off, let me say I firmly believe that both A Farewell To Kings(1977) and Hemispheres(1978) are absolute masterpieces in every sense of the word) and Rush is definitely one of my all-time favorite bands, but each era has its strengths and weaknesses, and same goes with the band's 70s albums. From my point of view, Rush's first 4 albums require just as much time and patience as anything they've ever done. It was at this point for the band where Rush seemed aimless, and also that Geddy Lee's vocals were at their most shrill and chipmunk-like (definitely an acquired taste for some). The band doesn't particularly favor COS for the sole reason that it was a commercial flop at the time and it placed them from playing in full crowded arenas back to playing the bars. It's probably one of the Rush albums I listen to the least, and to me it's below average by their standards when compared to most of the rest of their back-catalogue.

Still, taken for what it is, COS is an enjoyable album and I do like it. It certainly has its moments, but none that will leave your jaw dropped in awe. This one has a similar reception from fans as any of the band's more experimental albums in that for every fan that doesn't care for COS, there's another one who absolutely adores it. I don't share the same enthusiasm for it as many of the earlier Rush fans do, but I understand where they are coming from. COS is a bit underrated to an extent because the band refuses to play anything off of the album in their live setlist. It's definitely not a Rush album I would buy in the first 10 purchases or so, but the bigger fans should at least give it a listen.

The album starts off decently with the hardrocker 'Lakeside Park' and the semi-relaxing 'Bastille Day'. As far as subject matter goes, the latter song is about the French Revolution while the former has to do with nature. It almost has a real psychedelic feel to it when it comes to Alex's axework. 'I Think I'm Going Bald' is certainly the hardest rocking song on the album, though its silly lyrical content could make it fit easily along-side anything off of their debut LP. Otherwise, it's a pretty good track. It's a humorous take on Neil's popular subject of aging ('Losing It' from Signals(1982), 'Time Stand Still' from Hold Your Fire(1987), and 'Dog Years' from Test For Echo(1996) also come to mind). The rest of the album consists of the band's first two lengthy prog numbers, 'Necromancer' and 'Fountain of Lamenth'. Both of these songs by listening to their individual segments have some really good parts to them, though taken as a whole it just doesn't sound convincing enough to me. What I mean is, unlike the band's later lengthy epics like '2112', 'Xanadu', 'Cygnus X-1', 'Hemispheres', and 'Natural Science, these two tracks feel more like separate songs were thrown together into a whole, and lack a certain cohesion that makes the aforementioned epics work. A good long song feels shorter than it actually is, whereas these ones actually feel like their length implies. But as I stated before, I do enjoy many parts of the songs on their own, especially the slow gloomy parts and the faster upbeat rocking sections of 'Necromancer'. The same applies with 'Fountain Of Lamenth'.

Replayability: Seldom. Less than nearly every other Rush album.

Overall, COS is an interesting experimentation of what would be perfected on AFTK and Hemispheres, though I wouldn't make it one of the first purchases if you're a new fan of Rush. It's easier to get into for traditional hard rock fans and bigger Rush fans, though casual fans won't be missing a whole lot if they pass it up.

Other Recommendations:
-'Rush' and 'Fly By Night' (similar predecessors)
-'A Farewell To Kings' and 'Hemispheres' (easily the best of 70s Rush)
-Anything by Led Zepplin
-'Relayer' by Yes (There's a good reason why Geddy Lee picked this one as a desert island disc)

Raised on Radio
Raised on Radio
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 stars - Some great songs, though not Journey's best, February 2, 2005
This review is from: Raised on Radio (Audio CD)
Raised On Radio(1986). Journey's tenth studio album.

Journey, the corporate rock band that all critics _love_ to hate. Most everyone who is a serious aficionado of rock music usually cringes at the mere mention of the "corporate rock" moniker, one that is often tagged onto bands such as Styx, Eddie Money, Boston, Peter Frampton, Loverboy, Huey Lewis, Foreigner, Blue Oyster Cult, and countless others. I admit, you do have to wade through a ton of sludge to get to the good stuff, but there is in fact GOOD stuff released amongst all the aforementioned bands. I'm a serious listener of all sorts of rock music, and whether it be pop, heavy metal, progressive, punk, or whatever, good music is good music, and I tend to have a soft spot for Journey from time to time because of this. Like Loverboy, they know how to concoct good and catchy (albeit contrived) melodies that stick in your head long after the song ends. Written off in the 70s as a corporate rock act from the moment vocalist Steve Perry joined the band, Journey spawned many hits such as `Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin', `Any Way You Want It', and `Wheel In The Sky'. The early 80s continued to amass them fans with other radio staples like `Don't Stop Believin', `Faithfully', and `Only The Young'. `Separate Ways' has always been my favorite Journey tune with its sharp rocking sensibilities, and driving melodic keyboard tones. Now the year is 1986 and it's time for them to follow up their success with something even more akin to radio-play. Can they keep up the pace?

Well, not quite. But if you're a fan of some of Journey's catchier material, it's worth having it for a few songs. Much of the hard rock guitars have been stripped away in favor of a highly polished pop sheen, a standard thing in 1986. There's a couple of outstanding songs, several decent songs, and a few duds. So overall, a slightly above-average pop rock album.

Let's start with the best first. `Be Good To Yourself' has always been a great mid-paced rocker, sort of the swan song of classic Journey on their greatest hits album. The other highlight here is `Suzanne', which although somewhat un-Journey like in its poppiness, manages to capture everything that a good pop song needs, and is unquestionably my favorite track on the disc. It has a very upbeat quality with an awesome build-up into a full soaring chorus, the likes of which I haven't heard in a long time. Probably worth buying the disc used if you like it. `The Eyes Of A Woman' is a fairly standard melodic synth pop song in of itself, but for some reason I'm really drawn to its catchy chorus melody. Now, the good but not great songs. `Girl Can't Help It' opens the album on a light note, while `Positive Touch' has a bouncy but dated saxophone pop quality. Then there's the slower `Once You Love Somebody', which is just okay. The title track starts off promising, but it doesn't seem to go anywhere as the song moves along. `I'll Be Alright Without You' was a minor hit in the vein of some of Journey's earlier softer radio staples. The rest of the songs are either merely forgettable or below average.

So is ROR worth picking up? Sure, but only if you're already a Journey fan and you've checked out their earlier catalogue. It's neither essential nor a good starting point, but worth having for a few good songs if you can get into it.

Replayability: I'll break it out once in a while, if only for those few songs. The rest I can live without.

-Any of Journey's earlier albums prior to this one
-Any of Foreigner's 70s and 80s albums
-`Reckless' by Bryan Adams
-`Third Stage' by Boston
-`Sports' by Huey Lewis

Sleepy Buildings
Sleepy Buildings
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 4.5 stars - Beauty expressed in its purest form, February 2, 2005
This review is from: Sleepy Buildings (Audio CD)
Sleepy Buildings (2004). The Gathering's second live album.

I've been listening to The Gathering for almost a year now, though I guess you could still say I am fairly new to the group because I only own two of their albums so far. I bought Mandylion(1995) first and fell in love with Anneke Van Giersbergen's lovely vocals and the ethereal, gothic heaviness of the band that was backing her up. Then I found Nighttime Birds(1997) and enjoyed that about equally. Of course after this album, the band began to take an experimental trip into less heavier realms and more focused songwriting styles. I was a little hesitant to give the rest of their catalogue a try because everywhere I looked, there were mixed reviews claiming that when the band dropped the metal, the band also lost its edge. That immediately set off my B.S. detector, so going against their judgment I saw Sleepy Buildings in the stores and figured "Why not? It can't be that bad."

Thankfully, not only did I enjoy this one, but I'm tempted to say that this is quite possibly The Gathering's most essential release.

Now, I'm generally not a fan of live albums, much less accoustic offerings of live concerts, but there's something special about this quiet Netherlands concert that really stood out to me. For one, it's supposed to be "semi accoustic", meaning that the distortion has been nearly all stripped away, yet there are still plenty of guitars, piano, and keyboards to keep the structure. All emphasis is placed solely on the heavenly voice of Miss Van Giersbergen. And from what I've heard she has never sounded better! The band has come a long way from its doom metal roots, and likewise her voice has improved over the years. Although SB takes place in front of a crowd, you almost wouldn't guess it, as the band has perfected their playing in a live setting. It's the kind of show you'd hear in a small, cozy theatre as opposed to an open arena.

The songs are all slow-paced and take on a melancholic tone throughout the whole performance, so if you're coming here expecting a roaring power concert then you should steer clear. Otherwise, SB is a majestic show of stripped-down tunes found on nearly every previous studio album (except for the new one Souveniers(2003)). I quite enjoyed the newer versions of 'In Motion Part II', 'Shrink', and 'Eleanor', all songs from Mandylion and NB. I especially love the power that's conveyed with the quiet overtone in 'In Motion Part II' and how it breaks into full power during its single chorus near the end. Quite a nice surprise. 'The Mirror Waters', 'Stonegarden', and 'Like Fountains' are all completely revamped and "Anneke-fied" versions of their originals found on the first two albums. I have yet to listen to the originals, but they all impress here. 'Sleepy Buildings' is a new brief piano-based track performed specifically for this performance. The rest of the tracks all belong from the three newer albums, with 'Saturnine' and 'Red Is A Slow Colour' being favorites of mine.

Perhaps the only complaint that I have is that the crowd seems absolutely vacant during the songs, and forced inbetween them. But other than this, I have no real qualms here.

In the end, the Gathering proves that its real essence lies in the powerful melodies they produce and the voice fronting it all, not in the volume levels of guitar distortion. These were what factors attracted me to the band in the first place, and metal or no metal, at the heart of it all the band has maintained their edge in its purest form. Not something you can say about a lot of bands. Forget Norah Jones and those other wannabe soft contemporary FM pop bands that put you into a coma. SB is how its done! Now I can't wait to buy How To Measure A Planet(1998), If Then Else(2000), and Souveniers, because if SB is any indication, then these other albums will be just as essential, if not more so than the rest. Highly recommended to the bigger Gathering fans. Don't buy it first, but get it at some point.

Replayability: moderate. Perfect for the occasions when you need something relaxing to listen to.


-Any of The Gathering's albums from Mandylion onward.

-Anything by the band After Forever (Floor Jansen is another pretty voice)

-'Mother Earth' by Within Temptation (Sharon Den Adel is also very good)

Offered by bookwill
Price: $73.45
19 used & new from $2.36

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 2.5 stars - Ill conceived and terribly inconsistent, January 23, 2005
This review is from: Musique (Audio CD)
Musique(2000). Theatre Of Tragedy's fourth studio album.

Evereywhere I look, I'm constantly trying to find new and interesting female-fronted gothic rock/industrial bands. I was introduced by The Gathering first, followed by Lacuna Coil, Within Temptation, Lullacry, After Forever, and others. All of them had something special about their vocalists, songwriting, and the band backing them. For a while, I kept hearing about this other band, Theatre Of Tragedy, and that they've been praised from various places, so when I saw one of their albums at CD Tradepost, I purchased it off of a whim, not having heard a single track.

Then to my horror, I looked at the reviews for Musique before popping it in, and found the general consensus was that it was their worst album and that they sold out to Euro pop music. I became worried and thought that people were being a little harsh on them. So I started playing it with an open mind, though cautious as to what reviews have stated.

Unfortunately, this time they were right.

The first word that popped into my mind was "tacky". And coming from a guy who can listen to a lot of 80s pop rock with no problems, that's saying a lot. Usually when you turn off an album partway through the first listen because you've had enough of it, that's never a good sign. Successive listens haven't helped much either. There are many problems that must be addressed, but the main reason responsible for this album's failure and the single place I can point to first and foremost is vocalist Raymond I. Rohonniy. I positively can't stand his thick, campy, and fake english accent that manages to permeate and destroy the music. By the second song, I wanted to punch the guy in the face and yell "Cut it out!" Imagine the vocalist that fronts the famous 70s punk band The Clash, only with an awful toneless sound. He often attempts "spoken word" sections to most of the songs in order to convey this "technology meets music" theme they have going on, but they just don't work well at all because he tries to be serious and ends up sounding cringe-inducing. In the future, ToT should cut out or at least limit the amount of places this guy can take up in the music.

Secondly, the instrumentation reeks of crappy techno sound effects. Don't get me wrong, I actually like techno when it has a decent melody and lately I've been getting into more electronic music, but there are WAAAAY too many random sound effects all over the place to be able to take any of it seriously. Synthesizers and keyboards don't really bother me because I'm a huge fan of them when they're utilized properly, but here they manage to take the cheesiest sounds and throw them all in a blender, resulting in a real mess. I'm not a fan of Euro pop, but I'm pretty sure there are much better examples around than this.

Now the reason why I gave this album 2 1/2 stars instead of one is because there are scattered areas between all the songs that are actually decent and show some potential. Vocalist Liv Kristine Espene is the main source of this. Her voice is very beautiful and shines when she comes on. The guitars usually come out during her parts as well and so the combination works. Unfortunately you have to sit through the other vocalist's torturous sections to get to them. The two sections don't mix very well together resulting in very uneven and inconsistent music throughout the disc. It's as if they couldn't decide which style they prefer, so they just left everything on there.

The album starts off okay with 'Machine' and later tracks like 'Image' and 'Crash/Concrete' aren't too bad either, but they are balanced off with corball songs like 'Musique', 'City Of Light', and 'Radio'. The strange thing is, the best song on the disc was the unlisted track 12, which serves as a decent rocker. I don't need to comment on the others because I've addressed the issues on them already.

Replayability: Seldom. Listened to it a few times, then shelved it.

So this ended up being a poor introduction to the band for me and I hope they can change for the better in the future. On Musique, they appear to be a band in trouble. Most have said that their earlier albums are much better in comparison, so I may check those out in the future. RECOMMENDATION TO AVOID UNLESS YOU LIKE EUROPOP, THEN GIVE IT A SHOT.

Recommendations instead:
-ToT's earlier albums (haven't heard them yet, but they've got to be better than this)
-'Manylion' or 'Nighttime Birds' by the Gathering
-'Comelies' or 'Unleashed Memories' by Lacuna Coil
-'Crucify My Heart' by Lullacry
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 13, 2014 10:02 PM PDT

Destroy Erase Improve
Destroy Erase Improve
31 used & new from $1.25

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Metal has evolved... and the results are astonishing!!, January 23, 2005
This review is from: Destroy Erase Improve (Audio CD)
Destroy Erase Improve(1995). Meshuggah's second studio album.

(This review is mainly for anyone new to Meshuggah, like I am.)

A year ago, when I first heard of Meshuggah, I initially wrote them off as a "wall of noise, toneless band with crappy death vocals". Needless to say, I wasn't quite ready for them yet. Over the year though, I began to develop an ear for much heavier and often deathier bands like Opeth, Strapping Young Lad, and several others. No matter where I looked, I saw tons of praising reviews hailing Meshuggah as "the most progressive and jawdroppingly evolved metal band of our generation". Eventually, my curiosity sparked and I thought I should give them another try. Many have stated that DEI is the best place for people to start with Meshuggah, so I bought this release and proceeded with caution.

Then after the first listen, it finally clicked with me... This album is a METAL MASTERPIECE in every sense of the word! The reason why I didn't appreciate Meshuggah before was because my dislike towards death-styled vocals prevented me from enjoying the music. Ego and pre-perception can get in the way of enjoyment and is usually the source of close-mindedness. Thankfully, I've made it past that. The other mistake that close-minded people will make often is that they will approach Meshuggah expecting there to be melody to the music and end up sloughing them off when they find none. I've learned that melody is one approach, but not the only way to hear music. With Meshuggah, most melody is compromised in exchange for intensely complex, lush, and machine-like rhythmic songstructures. I repeat: MESHUGGAH SPECIALIZES IN RHYTHMIC SONGSTRUCTURES. Both rhythm guitars stay within the same general range throughout the disc, so for first-timers it may sound all the same. Once in a while, a lead solo is played by Fredrik Thordendal, though the melodies are very cool and unique, yet strangely indiscernible (it's difficult to describe, you'd have to hear them).

Like the band Spiral Architect, there is so many time changes that your brain is likely to twist into 14 different knots. However, one way that Meshuggah has surpassed the aformentioned band is in their ability to play in polyrhythms/polymeters. For those who don't know, the way it works is by each bandmember playing separate rhythms, yet at the same time managing to stay as a whole cohesive unit. Each time you listen, you can follow one bandmember and come up with a different tempo and rhythm from the others, though somehow it all comes together. People often dismiss this aspect as "off-time and unorganized" but with proper inspection, you can see that this couldn't be further from the truth. This must be very difficult to play live for the band, let alone follow along. As for the deathy vocals, I'm still not a big fan of them, but with Meshuggah that doesn't really seem to be a problem for me. I'd say now that Jens Kidman's vocals resemble more of a powerful throaty toneless roar as opposed to the cookie monster style that Opeth employs. It fits with the intensity of the music perfectly, and quite frankly I think that melodic singing would seem out of place here. Not to mention, that the music is just plain HEAVY! All these factors come into the success of DEI, as Meshuggah managed to finally craft their own unique sound. Other bands may share similar characteristics, but overall there's no one out there quite like them.

The songs all have a similar tone from one another, but they're by no means identical. Each one has its own subtle identity which comes off as thought-provoking, contemplative, and more important than anything else.... memorable. The album kicks off with a bang in the opener 'Future Breed Machine'. The song pulsates and pounds like an ever-changing row of thunderous hammers, topped off with an eerie bleep pattern that starts and ends the song. There are places in many of the tracks where the vocals have a shouty quality, faintly reminding me of early Anthrax. `Beneath' has a nice lead melody that sticks in your brain long after you turn the cd off. `Soul Burn' slows things down a bit, yet the music remains equally complex (they would further explore the slower realm on Nothing(2002)). I love the intro of `Transfixion' where you can slowly hear the music fading in and halfway through the process the music suddenly jumps to full volume! It gets me every time. `Vanished' continues the sheer speed and intensity while `Acrid Placidity' is more of a short melodic instrumental, serving as a nice quiet break from all the chaos. `Inside What's Within Behind' is as mind-bending as its title implies. In `Terminal Illusions', the track starts out with a really awesome industrialized guitar melody followed with an interesting speed-fest. `Suffering Truth' prolongs the metal assault, but perhaps the best track on here besides `FBM' is the album closer `Sublevels'. It's got one of the most unique song structures that I've ever heard in any song to date.

Replayability: Often. Perfect for when you're in the mood to challenge yourself with a rhythmic brutal metal assault.

Well this review has gone on way too long, but I'll just say that DEI is the perfect starting point for anyone new to Meshuggah. Believe it or not, they only get more intense and complex on the newer releases such as Chaosphere(1997), Nothing, and I(2004). DEI is still a milestone masterpiece in the context of the others. Meshuggah is certainly not for everyone, but for those who can get into this kind of stuff you'll be pleasantly surprised. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


-Any of Meshuggah's other albums: _ALL_ are excellent.

-`A Skeptic's Universe' by Spiral Architect (much more melody, but similar in song-structure composition)

-Any Opeth release (Another awesome heavy death metal band)

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